The tenth and final volume in Idil Biret’s complete recording of Beethoven’s piano sonatas contains my top recommended for the Twenty-Second. As through the series I have already written much about the life of Biret, I will briefly recap that she was born in Ankara and after years as an infant prodigy spent time in Paris as a pupil of Nadia Boulenger and Alfred Cortot. Her recording career began as a teenager, the present ‘Biret Archive’ planning to issue her large catalogue dating back to the 1960’s together with modern additions to complete unfinished cycles—such as the Beethoven sonatas—the present disc dating from sessions in 2006 and 2008. Biret was also much influenced by Wilhelm Kempff, and as I have commented as this cycle has progressed, her performances have shown both the spontaneous quality of Cortot and the deeply thought approach of Kempff. At times it has resulted in some unexpected interpretations within one disc. and here we have the fiery Cortot in the Twenty-second, a score that brings a youthful freshness blowing through the reading. The Twenty-fourth is more predictable and does not stand out from the crowded catalogue, but Cortot and Kempff make a potent combination in Hammerklavier. The first two movements are stormy and contrast with the warmth and sadness that fills the extended slow movement, the main thrust being of resigned poignancy. Bright in the upper octaves, the recording is unfussy and pleasing on the ear.
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